Saturday, March 25, 2023

Woke is where American extremism meets religious extremism abroad

 Sometime ago I wrote 

Italy covers nude statues for Rouhani visit

Today I read in the Washington Post by Alexandra Petri

The principal of Tallahassee Classical School was forced to resign this week after sixth-grade art students were shown images of Michelangelo’s David and parents complained. Yes, that David. No, I am not making this up. According to an interview with the school board chair by Slate’s Dan Kois, the principal of the charter school was supposed to send out a letter from the art teacher alerting parents that the nude statue would be shown. 


 

I can’t stop thinking about what this warning letter might have said.
Dear Parents,
Just wanted to let you know that in this art class, we’re going to be showing the students some art. Will that be okay? You signed up for a classical education, in theory — at least, that word is in the name of our school! — so I had sort of hoped it would be!
Here is all the art we might be showing your children, with reasons you might object. Please let us know if you object!
this is followed by a listing of famous works by masters and how they can be viewed as indecent to conclude 
To avoid any other controversy, the rest of the class is just going to be pictures of “The Scream” (Edvard Munch), over and over!




 This might be funny. A tragicomedy of sort, Kafkaesque in nature.

Enough is enough. Some parents are using their rights to oppress the majority and plainly shut them out. It is time for those parents who do not agree with extremist puritanism to speak and act. 

Shouting and bullying by religious extremisme changed Islamic culture in the Middle East since the nineties of the 20th century. Just compare pictures from the seventies with today, you can see the change by the increase in women wearing Islamic headscarves. ISIS was a natural progression.

The US needs to beware of a puritanism push lead by populist politicians using it to help them acceed to power heralding an era of a new 'inquisition' culture called anti-Woke struggle. 

For those who believe that it does not concern them, let them look at how it will affect their lives. Suppressing imagination, creativity, and tolerance leads to a society where prejudice reigns and to a deep antagonism for democracy.  

We could argue that many studies indicate that exclusionary environments account for a 3% GDP loss. We could state many studies about the effects of prejudice on social cohesion and human development. I want to just mention common sense. Social cohesion is necessary for any country to develop and flourish and be happy.

It is a nightmare to imagine myself living in a world where neighbors view each other across a 'woke/anti-woke' divide. At the end they refuse to live together, countries split, then the splinter entities split again along new lines of exclusion. They can only survive under autocratic regimes. 

 

 

 

 

 


Wednesday, February 15, 2023

Who is fighting for Putin's Russia and why?

Some time ago I wrote the post Volunteers fight for Ukraine, mercenaries fight for Russia

Then we heard that Wagner’s Yevheny Prigozhin, recruited thousands of Russian prisoners to bulk up the force in the autumn, offering them freedom after six months if they fought in Ukraine. We even saw videos of him in prison recruiting convicts. https://www.themoscowtimes.com/2022/09/15/video-shows-prigozhin-recruiting-russian-prisoners-for-ukraine-fight-a78801

Hundreds of convicts recruited into the ranks of Wagner, have been killed or severely wounded in Ukraine, where the mercenaries have been tasked with some of Russia’s most desperate campaigns. They are used as cannon futter, and if they do not comply, they are shot or worse. https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/sledgehammer-execution-russian-mercenary-who-defected-ukraine-shown-video-2022-11-13/

We know that Putin is trying to avoid high casualties that could come back to bite him. The rationale for the use of recruits is clearly expressed when Prigozhin said in a statement that 
it was better to send a “murderous real estate agent” who in war was “worth three or four, or even more dandelion boys”, including “your son, your father, your husband”. “Consider what you want more: for a murdering realtor to be sent to fight or for it to be your loved ones, who you’ll likely end up receiving back in a zinc coffin,” he added
Prepared to accept a heavy number of casualties, sending waves of convicts to tire Ukrainians proved effective in the battle of Bakhmut. But is this sustainable, can one base a war strategy on recruiting convicts?

Recent media reports said Wagner was having more difficulty recruiting prisoners because they had heard about the high casualty rates among Russian convicts sent into battle.
“What percentage of our guys who went [to Ukraine] are still alive?” one prisoner asked a Wagner recruiter in December, according to a report by the independent Mediazona outlet. “At that point, [the recruiter] started to stammer; he couldn’t give an answer, and he ended his speech there.”
But a video released last month showed several dozen former convicts – among them murderers, drug dealers and domestic abusers – now heading to their home towns in northern Russia, supposedly having earned pardons by surviving six months in Wagner’s ranks in Ukraine.
The release of the convicts who volunteer for Wagner is contentious among Russians, many of whom fear the men will go on to commit further crimes. Last month, the Kremlin defended the practice, saying convicts were being pardoned “in strict adherence with Russian law”.
“It’s often people who have the most years left on their sentences who are willing to go into Wagner,” said a prisoners’ rights activists based in Russia. “And that means, usually, it’s people who have committed the most serious crimes.”
Even pundits traditionally close to the government have raised doubts that scouring prisons for some of their most desperate inmates, sending them on violent missions to Ukraine and then releasing them back among the public is sound policy.
“Now another group of prisoners are returning from the [war] zone. It is necessary to understand whether psychologists have worked with them?” Ivan Melnikov, a Russian human rights activist, said in a recent radio interview. “We may end up with a colossal relapse of criminal behavior in the near future if nothing is done.”
When mobilisation was declared hundreds if not thousands of young Russians decided to vote with their feet and flee the country. Many of them are from the IT sector and other professionals. https://theconversation.com/russians-flee-the-draft-as-the-reality-of-the-war-in-ukraine-hits-home-191491

This is not sustainable. Russians cannot be wrestled to fight in a war that does not sense to them.





Tuesday, February 14, 2023

Things that do not make sense in Beirut, pure absurdity!

 I know that the situation in Lebanon is crazy, but even amid the craziness there is usually some order. Below are some of things that I experienced. They did not make sense. No rational explanation other than incompetence and a total disregard of customer rights.

The DSL connection being unstable, one must insure and alternative method. The solution was mobile Wifi. The service is acceptable. I was satisfied until I found out that you cannot recharge your bundle before the date the service cuts! Does it make sense to you?

We all know that official electricity is inexistant. One must rely on building generators or subscriptions from illegal suppliers, who, by the way, are not registered as working companies who pay taxes.  Then suddenly, the government decides to increase electricity prices. Here I am not talking about consumption costs, rather monthly subscription costs. Meaning that you must pay a substantial monthly fee for darkness.... Does this make sense to you?

With lots of pomp, the government announces that they are going to supply 4 hours of electrical power per 24 hours. Yay! but this is done haphazardly without any scheduling. So, people living on upper floors never know when they will be able to ride the lift. We do not know when we can heat water to take a bath, we are in total darkness and clap for having the honor and happiness to get 4 hours of power every 24 hours. Does this make sense to you?

Having a Lebanese mobile number, I was hoping to use it during my stay. Noting that you must recharge it every month to keep the number, so units accumulate. As soon as I arrived home noticed that there was no reception. Seems that the carrier I am on has no reception in my area.  I did not use it once. Does this make any sense to you?

The water supply is almost nothing, so we buy water on a weekly basis to fill the tanks. Guess what, the yearly water fee is now tenfold higher than last year! Does this make any sense to you?

As soon as the Lebanese pound rate to USD changes, all prices in supermarkets change, and I mean immediately. This practice is inflationary. And nobody wonders why this happens. Not all costs are related or paid in USD, yet the whole price of the product increases according and in line with the USD rate. Pure profiteering and marketeering, they are accepted by the population as normal practice. Does this make any sense to you?

These are but a few examples, I could go on forever.... Beirut does not make sense.





Friday, February 3, 2023

Beirut was a dream, it became a nightmare

 Lebanon has been through ages a country of immigration. Since the 19th century wave after wave, the Lebanese have left their shores in boats, then by air seeking a better life. The Americas, mostly Brazil and the US were the main destinations. After the 1975 civil war, Australia and Europe were added to the traditional destinations. The number of citizens of Lebanese descent in Brazil and the US exceeds the number of Lebanese residing in Lebanon. Many of those who left since the 1970s kept a link to the country and returned to visit family during summer vacations or at Christmas. 

Things changed and are changing since the last wave of migration that followed the economic collapse of 2019. More than three hundred thousand left the country in a three-year period, 36% in the medical profession, 25% in the academic profession, judges, engineers, artisans, in short anybody who has a profession or who excels at what they do. What is very disturbing is that those who left in previous waves and kept an anchor in the country are giving up. They are cutting ties.

A heartbreaking testimony

Visiting Beirut was a joy, reuniting with family and friends, enjoying Lebanese food near the Mediterranean shores, sipping coffee sitting in the mountains enjoying the fresh air while looking over traditional Lebanese houses and gardens. Today every time I plan a visit it is anxiety and a planning nightmare; how to ensure electricity and water supplies in the apartment I kept in Beirut.

I climbed three flights of stairs. No electricity, no lift. I opened the door and felt home. A wave of memories hit me. It felt good. Despite all the noise and air pollution from generators spewing fumes, despite the electricity cuts that the paid generator is imposing (governmental electricity is zero hours per day), I felt good. The apartment is a depositary of happy times, it is a personification of my choices. Each item is exactly what I like. The pictures, the paintings, the linen, the towels, everything. 

A week later, my heart is breaking. I realize that I need to give it up, to cut the final tie to the country. 

Keeping the apartment is not reasonable. The monthly costs are increasing and the money I kept in a bank in Beirut to spend when I visit is now under locks by the banks with no prospects for access anytime soon. The governmental electricity company decided to increase electricity monthly fees even though there is no electricity supply. The governmental phone company decided to increase phone and internet monthly subscription. The governmental water company increased yearly subscription by 100-fold though there is no supply, we must buy water. The monthly building expenses increased dramatically. And each time I come stay, on top of regular expenses I must pay around USD 300 per month to get basic services. Crazy! 

The government is just increasing taxes with no effort to address the economic collapse. Kafkaesque. 

So, I am taking the decision to cut ties. It is so final that I am barely able to comprehend. Is it a divorce process or a death loss? I do not know. I am mourning. It will take time for me to heal if I ever do heal.



Sunday, January 15, 2023

My story with alcohol

 is an article I read lately on The Guardian.

Last orders: how we fell out of love with alcohol

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2023/jan/15/last-orders-how-we-fell-out-of-love-with-alcohol

It is a remarkably interesting piece; it informs that alcohol consumption is on a downward slope in young people. Then it argues if it is a good thing, medically, and then explores the link between creativity and alcohol. Read it, it is worth it.

I immediately though 'but I love wine, Ouzo, single malt, Irish coffee, the Austrian Maria Theresa coffee or Fiaker, Limocello,....' Then it hit me. In the article alcohol is equated with being drunk, or excessive drinking, or alcoholism. As usual we try to see things in white and black. It is either good or bad. In fact, moderation in everything would be an acceptable solution.

Sounds boring wisdom that old people would say. Wait, I am old!

Before 21, I was what you could call a drinker. Maybe, not really. Growing up in the roving sixties and seventies, to be cool and liberated, especially for a woman, necessitate to be a drinker and smoker. I was the best at everything (wink). At university, I drank many guys under the table. Impressive, no?

Honestly, I never liked being drunk or losing control. I still do not and stay away from even pain medications. It's quasi paranoia. The fear of not being in control of my life, my actions. 

I could enjoy flirting, dancing, hearing music, and sex more when I was sober. So, I made a lot of hoopla to look good, but I did not get drunk often. Don't tell anybody (wink) it would ruin my reputation of having been a party girl which I was, but in full control of my senses.

Then, when I stopped needing to put a Maske, I became what you can call a social drinker. 

social drinker
noun
  1. a person who drinks alcohol chiefly on social occasions and only in moderate quantities.

My pallet appreciates the warm bouquet of a good wine, I love the smell and taste of Ouzo in summer, I appreciate alcoholic coffees in winter and love the tangy taste of bitter or sour liqueurs. And to be honest, sometimes I like the fizzy feeling of being a bit tipsy. Never a lot. So why stop drinking?

I am definitely an epicurean. 

 Cheers! Prost! Sante! Salud! Felicidades! ваше здоровье! Saluti! and so many more!





Friday, January 6, 2023

Why are we obsessed with Harry and his sob story?

 First it was Harry and Megan, now it is Harry and William. Why do we care? Amusement, divertissement, entertainment? Soap opera? Maybe. 

It does not deserve dissertations on the Monarchy and racism.

Megan complaining about racism makes sense, it is how things are. Racism is still current in UK, and we know it. Racism prevails in the police and the policing institution so why should it not be part of Monarchy. As callous as my words are, she is barely a victim if you compare her to other black women. She is a princess, she is rich, and she is cashing on racism. 

The poor prince and princess had to leave the palace to live in a mansion and make millions out of their story online and in books. Their only added value is that Harry was born a prince and Megan married a prince. I am sure they suffered, but suffering is relative and there should be a threshold for counting one's many blessings. So, sorry if the story does not make my heart bleed.

Then Harry decided to unveil that he was the Spare that resented all his life not being the Heir. A classical story of Cain and Abel. Brothers brawling is not unheard off! Why is he washing his dirty laundry in public, I have no idea. Any value? Any morale to the story? 

Like any father, king or layman, King Charles told feuding Prince Harry and Prince William not to make is “final years a misery”. According to the memoir, Charles stood between his sons “looking up at our flushed faces” and Harry quotes him as saying this: “Please, boys. Don’t make my final years a misery.” Yet Harry chose to make all this public. Is there a higher purpose aside from making money and getting the satisfaction of revenge for being the Spare. Fact that is not the making of Charles of William, it was not a premeditated action aimed at hurting him.

It is a sad story that has no value except making its writer rich and putting him in the spotlight he seems to ravel in though he often complains that he needs privacy.

So, I ask again, why are we obsessed with Harry and his sob story?






Saturday, December 31, 2022

I want to hope that 2023 will herald the age of Aquarius...



Fifty years ago, never fathomed the amount of hate and bigotry we are seeing in the world. From the rise of intolerance all over the world, Trump and populism in the US, Brexit, to the rise of the national socialism or if you want the extreme right in Sweden, Italy, and Orban in Hungary.

In 2018 I felt hopeless when I saw the rehabilitation of a dictator that barrel bombed and gazed his people to stay in power in Syria. Putin was his main supporter and today Putin is repeating his crimes against civilians in Ukraine enabled and empowered by many in Europe saying at the time "not in my backyard!"
I am saddened by the lack of empathy for the haunted looks of so many children living in refugee tents. These children were Rohingya, Syrian, Yemeni, and today they are Ukrainians. I am angered by politicians using the refugees as scapegoats to feed their electoral ambitions.
I am angry at the erosion of women rights in Afghanistan, Iran, Russia, and the US where Trump is elected, he appoints a majority of super conservative to the Constitutional Court, Roe vs Wade is overturned and the rights of choice for a woman is undermined. End result: white men decide for us, they own us!

Yet not all that happened in the last decade is bad. We discovered that there's mineable ice on Mars, we found a way to grow vegetables without earth or daylight, we discovered a warm-blooded fish called Opah, we created a DNA Nano robot that can kill cancer cells, and we did tremendous advancement at the level of using stem cells to cure many diseases and open windows of hope for MS, Leukemia, Alzheimer, and blindness.
Covid-19 changes our way of life. How we work, how we socialize, how we interact; how we shop, and so much more; so many died before their time, children were separated from their friends without knowing why, people lost their jobs and in countries where there is no social net, people went hungry. But we managed to adapt to new methodologies of work and life. We did not let self-isolation depress us. We stayed connected with friends and found ways and means to interact virtually. A blessing. We developed vaccines, and today the pandemic is behinds us because it is under control.

But today, while waiting for the end of 2022, I wondered if I was wrong in not counting my blessings.
I was not infected by the virus, and I did not lose any of my close family to the virus. A blessing.
I am the grandmother of two beautiful and healthy girls. I became closer to my lovely 6 year and 2 years old granddaughters. Lots of family quality time. A blessing.

My hopes and dreams in the seventies went along with John Lennon's song Imagine. I believed in the age of Aquarius, a 5th Dimension song.
Still, I want to believe that love will prevail in the end. I may be an optimist, an idealist, even childish, or whatever you want to call me.
I just do not want to be bitter and disillusioned. I want to dream and hope. This is how I am, and this is how I remain.

The Age of Aquarius
Lyrics
When the moon is in the Seventh House
And Jupiter aligns with Mars
Then peace will guide the planets
And love will steer the stars
This is the dawning of the age of Aquarius
The age of Aquarius!
Aquarius!
Harmony and understanding
Sympathy and trust abounding
No more falsehoods or derisions
Golden living dreams of visions
Mystic crystal revelation
And the mind's true liberation
Aquarius!
When the moon is in the Seventh House
And Jupiter aligns with Mars
Then peace will guide the planets
And love will steer the stars
This is the dawning of the age of Aquarius
The age of Aquarius
Aquarius!
by the 5th Dimension

Lyrics
Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do be able to
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion, too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace
You, you may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you will join us
And the world will be as one
Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world
You, you may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you will join us
And the world will live as one
Songwriters: JOHN LENNON





Saturday, December 24, 2022

Just say 'Merry Christmas'



I just love Christmas. 
I hate the polarization and discussions of whether it is politically correct to say Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays. 
Why complicate life? Some things are just to enjoy. Being inclusive means, no baggage, just children laughing, magic, and dreams.

I just love Christmas time! Families get together, children laugh and are happy, there is magic in the air, and we all want to believe in Santa. In addition, it is Peace on earth which is nice in the crazy violent times of today. Lately with all the polarization over religious identities versus country or culture, Christmas has lost some of its universal attraction.
It should not!

Lebanon, my country of origin, is a country that for long suffered from sectarian political power struggle yet is still a country where Christmas unites its people in celebration, independent of their religion or creed.
I come from a Muslim Arab background. During my childhood, every year I waited for Christmas time impatiently and with expectation. Santa came to my grandfather's house to distribute presents to tens of grandchildren. At home we had a Christmas tree. I remember a year when I had a nativity scene at home; I was ten years old and envied the nativity scene at a friend's house; my parents fulfilled my dream.

This year, I will be sitting with my loved ones around a tree on Christmas eve sharing presents, waiting for a delicious dinner. I have spent most of this month trying to think of the best present I will get for each of my loved ones. I changed my notebook wallpaper to show the Christmas spirit. I am intending to spend a Merry Christmas and I want people to wish me a Merry Christmas!

In my European country of adoption, I couldn't except notice that kindergarten staff tried hard to be politically correct having the children sing for Jewish Hanuka, Hindous Diwali, and Muslims Eid.
They even replaced in the play the three wise men with wise men and women! I strongly appreciate it.
Yet, they made a big mistake when they said Jews celebrate Hanuka, Hindous Diwali, Muslims Eid, and Christians Christmas. By saying that only Christians celebrate Christmas segregates between children and forces a religious identity on them. It discriminates against atheists and those who, like me, celebrate all holidays.

Christmas is not only a religious event.
I love to celebrate Christmas, Easter, Fitr, Adha, and any other occasion that includes children laughter, tasty food, and fun!

Let's stop segregating people by the holidays they celebrate and leave the children and all of us enjoy our Christmas time!

Merry Christmas



Tuesday, December 20, 2022

Lebanon: hope and fear for Christmas


A post published in 2019, the 'revolution' did not bring change, with no clear leadership it fettered away.

Martyrs Square in downtown Beirut was last Christmas place for joy and beauty.
Today it is the home of hope and fear.

It is the home of protesters trying to break the barriers of sectarianism that feeds corruption.
They have been in the square for more than two months calling peacefully for a change.
They were met by a political class that wither is not ready to hear or to understand what they hear.
They were met by political faction trying to proactively break their resolve through violence by thugs who burn tents and wheel their batons on the head of women and journalists.
They suffer attrition from an economic crisis that eats out the livelihood and hopes of all.

Will there be this year children laughing on Christmas eve and day in downtown Beirut?
Will there be hope and protesters dancing in the street?
Will there be death, violence, and despair?

As it looks now, happiness and hope will be missing in Martyrs Squares.
Yet whatever happens, the protests have heralded a new mood in the country.
The movement won and achieved its purpose. The political class is cowering, the media addressing issues that were neglected. Sectarianism is refused and all are calling for a civil state.

Change is in the air.
Do I dare to hope?



Lebanon, a country for long suffering from sectarian political power struggle is still a country where Christmas unites its citizens, independent of their religion or creed.

A small glimmer of hope for a country resilient in its love for life and doomed by geography and the game of nations, and I have to say the individualism of its people.




Xmas reflections

Nothing changed in Lebanon, things got worth, people are striving to survive.

I just love Christmas time! Families get together, children laugh and are happy, there is magic in the air and we all want to believe in Santa. In addition it is Peace on earth which is nice in the crazy violent times of today.

True that for some family time is not all we hope for, and material restrictions are felt deeply...

Anyway, what I want to say here is that Christmas is not only a religious event.
It is much more and is celebrated by many atheists, practicing or secular Muslims, Jews, Hindus, etc.

Lately with all the polarization over religious identities versus country or culture, Christmas has lost some of it universal attraction.
It should not!

Lebanon, a country for long suffering from sectarian political power struggle is still a country where Christmas unites its citizens, independent of their religion or creed.

A small glimmer of hope for a country resilient in its love for life and doomed by geography and the game of nations, and I have to say the individualism of its people.










All children around the world love to celebrate Christmas, do not deny them this joy!

A friend of mine sent me the video of a kindergarten nativity play her son of 3 years old took part in. Amazingly cute! Small kids laughing and just standing there not knowing what say.

I published this text in 2019, nothing changed.

I couldn't except notice that though the kindergarten staff  tried hard to be politically correct having the children sing for Jewish Hanuka, Hindous Diwali, and Muslims Eid.
They even replaced in the play  the three wise men with wise men and women! I strongly appreciate it.

Yet, they made a big mistake when they said Jews celebrate Hanuka, Hindous Diwali, Muslims Eid, and Christians Christmas.
By saying that only Christians celebrate Christmas segregates between children and forces a religious identity on them.
It discriminates against atheists and those who like me, celebrate all holidays.

I am not a believer in any institutionalized religion, in fact I rarely think of the theological meaning of religions, on the practical side I can observe that most wars were waged by men in the name of God.

And I just love Christmas time! Families get together, children laugh and are happy, there is magic in the air and we all want to believe in Santa.
In addition it is Peace on earth which is nice in the crazy violent times of today.

Christmas is not only a religious event.
It is much more and is celebrated by many atheists, practicing or secular Muslims, Jews, Hindus, etc.

Most atheists celebrate Christmas saying it is an extension of Saturnalia.
Most Christians of any of the tens of denominations celebrate Christmas whether they are believers or not.
Many Muslims celebrate Christmas, they enjoy sharing in the festivities, and after all Christ is a prophet of Islam!
In India, which has the largest population of Hindus in the world, Christmas is a national holiday and is celebrated as a festival by many Hindu families. And it coincides with Pancha Ganapati, which is a five-day holiday that begins on Dec. 21 feasts and gift giving.

I love to celebrate Christmas, Easter, Fitr, Adha, and any other occasion that includes children laughter, good food, and fun!

Let's stop segregating people by the holidays they celebrate and leave the children and all of us enjoy our Christmas time!

Ho Ho Ho


Don't be shy to say Merry Christmas!

I published this previously, I want to say the same this year.

Happy holidays, is the politically correct wording I am bombarded with for the last few years.

Honestly I have no idea what they are wishing for?!!!

I am not a believer in any institutionalized religion, in fact I rarely think of the theological meaning of religions, on the practical side I can observe that most wars were waged by men in the name of God.

I come from a Muslim Arab background.
During my childhood every year I waited for Christmas time impatiently and with expectation.
This year too, I will be sitting with my loved ones around a tree on Christmas eve sharing presents, waiting for a delicious dinner.
I have spent most of this month trying to think of the best present I will get for each of my loved ones.
I changed my notebook wallpaper to show the Christmas spirit.
I am intending to spend a Merry Christmas and I want people to wish me a Merry Christmas!

I do not understand why people are shying away from wishing each other a Merry Christmas.
Most atheists celebrate Christmas saying it is an extension of Saturnalia.
Most Christians of any of the tens of denominations celebrate Christmas whether they are believers or not.
Many Muslims celebrate Christmas, they enjoy sharing in the festivities, and after all Christ is a prophet of Islam!
In India, which has the largest population of Hindus in the world, Christmas is a national holiday and is celebrated as a festival by many Hindu families. And it coincides with Pancha Ganapati, which is a five-day holiday that begins on Dec. 21 feasts and gift giving.

All children around the world love to celebrate Christmas.

The only people who refuse to celebrate Christmas and are offended if you wish them Merry Christmas are intolerant people that practice Islam,  Hinduism, or any other religion, in addition to extremist atheists, and fundamentalists Christians who see Santa and Christmas trees as a commercialization of Christmas.

Why pander to them and say happy holidays instead of Merry Christmas?!

I love to celebrate Christmas, Easter, Fitr, Adha, and any other occasion that includes children laughter, good food, and fun!

So nobody will convince me to replace Merry Christmas with Happy holidays! 

ho ho ho!


Beirut is a nice city where Christians and Muslims enjoy their Christmas!



Sunday, October 9, 2022

Saudi Arabia's leader is driving his country on a dangerous path

 Some time ago I wrote a blog 

Hypocrisy; US take on Saudi Arabia

I argued that US and Biden needed to make overtures and that despite MBS being a dictator he had made some good efforts for women rights and curbing the domination of extremist clerics.

True, but after the latest OPEC+ decisions of reducing production in line with Russia's interest, I doubt that MBS will be able to lead Saudi Arabia into a safe future. It appears, he suffers from the same narcissist syndrome that many isolated dictators suffer from. 

The OPEC decision coming currently aims to drive prices up shortly before a mid-term election where Democrats are fighting for control of the Senate and perhaps retain control of the Congress. MBS is trying to help Republicans or more so Trump whom he, and many others in the Arab World consider a friend due to his Iran policy.

Underlying is also a personal vendetta with Biden who during the Presidential campaign said he will make Saudi Arabia a pariah for the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi dissident journalist who was assassinated by agents of the Saudi government at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey.

In both rationale for his decision is an element of megalomania rather than statesmanship.

Trump is a racist who views Arabs and Muslims as xxx; he might have been hawkish on Iran, but Biden is not Obama as to policy on Iran and world affairs have altered dramatically after the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Smart diplomacy says that it is the appropriate time to restore the alliance with the US, especially after Biden made the ouverture with his visit to Saudi Arabia. Iran is in the Russian camp, but China and India are on the fence, trying not to be lured in, same as Turkey. Saudi Arabia is not in the league of an almost nonaligned China, so why should it align itself with Russia? Not reasonable or well though. The smart thing was to try and get leverage on the US in its struggle with Iran. Israel, at the beginning of the conflict tried to take an in the middle stand to be drawn soon back to its natural position with the US. Israel has more influence than Saudi Arabia with Trump or Biden US than Saudi Arabia.

As to the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi, it was a sign of personal weakness. Khashoggi did not constitute a real danger to MBS. His botched assassination was unprofessional and stupid. It was caught without possibility of denial. He could not get out of it. The best would have been to swallow it and try to let the world forget rather than get offended when faced with it. Biden was driven to bump fists with MBS, it should have been enough. Smart diplomacy and the interests of Saudi Arabia should have been a main concern rather than empty pride.

Like all dictators MBS overestimates his strength. Saudi Arabia is rich but the war in Yemen indicates that it has no military strength. US weapons protect it, and its army is barely effective despite years of support and training. 

On the development level, it is still at nascent stage. Prince Mohammed in 2017, unveiled Neom. It is Saudi Arabia's flagship business and tourism development on the Red Sea coast. It is a central project in the 2030 Vision outlining the kingdom's plans to diversify the economy. Talking about smart cities, Saudi Arabia is creating a cognitive city, Neom, which envisages what a city must provide its citizens 20-30 years ahead of time. It is building it now with a $500 billion outlay. Urban planning and living are at the heart of this model, with 95% of the land being devoted to nature.

MBS is proud of his city, like a child with a new toy. But what is Neom? Could it be a revolutionary Silicon Valley? Or just a new consumerism monster? Stil early on to say. Yet I doubt that creativity can develop without freedom. It remains copying, reproducing, and consume. Nothing to compare with NASA overall planetary defense strategy, DART’s impact with the asteroid Dimorphos demonstrated this month a viable mitigation technique for protecting the planet from an Earth-bound asteroid or comet, if one were discovered.

MBS should reconsider his strategy and go back to soft diplomacy and to where the interests of Saudi Arabia really lie. The American people, including Republicans will not forget that Saudi Arabia is contributing to raising inflation. Same goes for Europeans.